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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Recruits urged to join ranks of Walney fort detectives

A HIDDEN and rare piece of pre-First World War history is to be the focus of a major heritage project.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded Art Gene £97,400 to produce a community arts and archaeology project about Fort Walney, a practice trench and rifle range on Walney Island dating back to 1911-1913.

Fort Walney Uncovered will mark the First World War centenary by uncovering and interpreting the remains of the British Army training camp in the North Walney Nature Reserve.

Art Gene, a Barrow-based, artist-led company, plans to complete the project by August 2015. Artists, archaeologists, Furness College students, Natural England staff and volunteers will work together to document the site.

The location is adjacent to land that was used to test-fly airships designed by Barnes-Wallis, the inventor of the bouncing bomb, for Vickers Ltd.

Art Gene will produce artwork to be installed on site that interprets these features and tells the history of Fort Walney. The work will include a digital map and smartphone app to guide visitors to the site.

The military heritage is set among the sand dunes of the reserve. A consultation commissioned by Natural England in March 2013 showed many residents and visitors were unaware of this piece of history but, when told, they were keen to learn more and get involved in helping to preserve the site.

Maddi Nicholson, artist director of Art Gene, said: “We are thrilled to have received the support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Fort Walney is a significant but hidden asset for the people of Barrow and indeed, the North West.

“We are confident the project will help residents and visitors to understand their heritage and the important role Barrow played in the both world wars.”

The project will be delivered with the support of the landowner, BAE Systems, and in partnership with Natural England.

Art Gene would like to hear from anyone with stories or memories to share of Fort Walney.

Perhaps you played there as a child, looking for artefacts, or had a relative who trained there. Please contact Nick Owen at Art Gene, by emailing artgenenick@btconnect.com or by calling 01229 825085.

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